US Open defending champion Rafael Nadal said Tuesday he will not play the tournament, citing concerns over the coronavirus .
He also slammed tennis’s ‘barbaric’ schedule for the rest of the year.
“After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year’s US Open,” Nadal said on Twitter.
“The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it.
“This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.”
The 34-year-old Spanish star also took aim at the international tennis schedule, which has been revised following disruptions sparked by COVID-19 shutdowns.
The US Open in New York, scheduled for August 31 through September 13, will be followed a fortnight later by the French Open at Roland Garros.
“We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after 4 months stopped with no play…” Nadal said.
With Nadal’s long-time rival Roger Federer already ruled out of the tournament as he recovers from knee surgery, the US Open will mark the first time since 1999 that neither player has featured in the main draw of a Grand Slam event.
Nadal, who has 19 Grand Slam victories, could have equalled Federer’s tally of 20 Slam wins in New York.